AFI Review: I, Tonya
We’re all mostly familiar with the incident Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan — whether Tonya personally knew about the attack on Kerrigan or kind of knew or didn’t know at all, the film is here to show everyone’s stories about it.
The story is insane and such a fun but also kind of heartbreaking dark comedy biopic. Screenwriter Steven Rogers who takes a complete 180 with this script, his previous scripts have been the romance Hope Floats and the family drama Step-Mom, decided to write about this story because it was “trueish and tragic.” Part of the film is the retelling of Tonya’s story — starting as a 4 year old up until the “incident” — the other part is the actors playing the present-day people being interviewed “talking heads” style and it is all parts genius. Rogers decided to choose a very loose format, incorporating stuff that people say you shouldn’t do in scripts like characters occasionally break the fourth wall and even criticize the film, he felt that doing this story kind of mirrored the main characters, characters that don’t necessarily play by the rules, he even wrote 265 scenes in 110 pages.
The performances by the actors are equally great. Rogers actually wrote the part of LaVone Harding, Tonya’s mother, for Allison Janney and she nails it, Margot Robbie plays the leading lady Tonya, and Sebastian Stan plays Jeff Gillooly, Tonya’s on-again/off-again and eventually ex-husband. All the performances are pretty exceptional but especially Janney who just nails it as that mean mom you love to hate — it won’t be surprising if she gets a Best Supporting Actress nod.
The story highlights where Tonya grew up and how she came to be the way she is. How hard it is to live your whole life in trash and not become trash. Her mom is vicious and mean to her, hitting her and yelling at her constantly, one scene she even throws a knife at her and it goes into Tonya’s arm. She did not lead a glamorous life growing up so she was not the most glamorous ice skater, she chose to skate to rock songs and had to make her outfits, because of this the judges didn’t really like her. There are a few scenes in the film where she speaks to the judges and calls them out on unfairly judging, they just respond simply with saying they judge on presentation too or she “isn’t the image they want to portray for America.” She gets lower scores because of this, even though her skating is far better. It’s not until she becomes the first woman to complete a triple axial that the judges start giving her credit where credit is due. But success does not last forever, her personal life seems to affect her skating, leading up to the incident where Tonya loses everything.
While the story does lean in favor of Tonya’s favor, it is a great film. It’s funny, inspiring, and heartbreaking at once — truly a great rollercoaster of a story and just as fun to watch. I, Tonya hits theaters December 8th and it’s definitely worth a watch.